Patients To Be Denied Drugs Under New Plans

New Plans Drafted By The Department Of Health Could Lead To Some Older Patients Being Refused Treatments

19.02.2014

Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397

New plans from the Department of Health would allow doctors to deny medical treatments for patients if they believe there is no "wider societal benefit" in providing them.

Nice, which controls the NHS's drug buying policy and is independent of the government, believes that the proposals could see younger people prioritised for some drugs because they have the ability to contribute more to society than the elderly.

With few older people with life-restricting conditions returning to the workplace, some critics believe the plans will result in care being rationed for those most in need of help, reports the Daily Mail.

Ciaran Devane, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, said the proposal was "bad for older people" and commended Nice for rejecting it.

These views were echoed by Penny Mordaunt, a Tory MP and co-chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on ageing and older people.

Ms Mordaunt said: "Age shouldn't come into it. It's about you as an individual and what drugs work for you. You cannot decide from someone's age, their ability to benefit from treatment. It's about them as an individual.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health defended the proposals and argued that changing the way the system works would ensure good value for money and would not overly penalise the elderly.

"We have asked Nice to look at the way drugs are assessed... the allegation that older people will miss out is absolutely not true," the representative added.

The cost-effectiveness of medicines is currently measured by Nice through a complex mathematical equation that takes a number of factors into account.

Called QALY, the measure considers how much a patient's life will improve if they are given medication and whether it is worth the money needed to fund it.

This has been a particularly hot topic in terms of cancer drugs in recent years, with dozens of patients denied potentially life-saving, but expensive medications on the NHS for economic reasons.

Expert Opinion
There are may niche illnesses and conditions that are wholly treatable or can be significantly improved with the help of certain drugs yet because of funding issues and changes to the criteria there is a chance that these patients could miss out.

“We have been involved in challenging many decisions on access to appropriate treatment including the Herceptin cancer drug in 2006.

“It is important that all members of society, including vulnerable people such as the older population, receive the same assessment of their individual needs to ensure they are not disadvantaged when making healthcare decisions.

“Although NICE says that they don’t take age into account when deciding on drugs, with any new policy there is a chance of indirect discrimination because certain groups of people may fall into the same category by default.”
Yogi Amin, Partner